Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender belongs to Bryke and Nickelodeon, not me. And definitely not to M. Night. Ugh.
"Well," Katara said into her punch cup. "They're married."
Sokka sighed. "Yup."
"Why did you not tell me?" Aang shrieked. He paced back and forth at the end of the royal ballroom, his feet occasionally lifting with bursts of air. "I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I did that!"
"Did what?" Suki asked.
Aang grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her a shake. "Don't you realize they're going to kill each other?" he demanded. "He's in love with Mai. She's in love with-"
Aang, Suki, and Katara glanced swiftly at Sokka. He frowned into his empty cup. "I'm going to get some more," he said, shaking it.
"She's in love with someone else," Aang finished. "He's all bad-tempered and grouchy. She's all feisty and sarcastic. They're going to kill each other within a week!"
"They don't look like they're going to kill each other," Suki said.
The curtains drew back as the bride and groom entered the ballroom. The seated guests rose. "She's beautiful," Katara murmured. "She looks so grown up."
"It's hard to believe she's sixteen," Suki remarked. "I still think she's a little twelve-year-old, earthbending jerks into oblivion and accidentally kissing me on the cheek."
The bride and groom made their way towards their family- the bride's parents and the groom's mother and uncle. They bowed low before them.
"Toph is married to the fire lord," Aang mumbled. "She'll destroy the nation in a week."
Katara elbowed him in the ribs. "Be quiet and take my hand," she ordered. He obeyed.
The couple stood and faced their guests. The assembled audience bowed silently, in deference to the young ruler and his new wife. Zuko led Toph to their seats at the front of the ballroom, and the orchestra swept into a burst of music as the wedding feast began.
Toph bit into her piece of wedding cake. "Well, at least my mother remembered I like lemon," she remarked. The sweet, tangy cake fell apart in her mouth. "This wedding might suck, but this is nice."
"Are you talking to yourself?"
Toph scowled. "What's it to you?" she said. "I'm the bride. I can do what I want."
She could hear the grin in Sokka's voice. "Yeah, I guess you can get away with it," he said. He stole a bite of cake off her plate. "So you knew about this before Zuko did?"
"Yeah," she said, yanking her plate out of his reach. "When the Earth King send a letter saying I had to marry the fire lord, I kind of figured it out on my own."
"And he didn't know?"
"Not in the slightest," she said cheerfully. She broke off a large hunk from her slice of cake and stuffed it in her mouth. "I think he was surprised."
"Why didn't you stop it?" Sokka asked.
Toph swallowed thoughtfully. "I tried," she admitted. "It didn't seem fair to either of us to have to get married. But my father pointed out that there were all sorts of legal ramifications."
"Ramifications?" Sokka smirked. "Can you even spell that?"
She elbowed him hard in the ribs. "I would if I could read," she retorted.
Suki and Katara swept over to them, their dresses rustling. "Sokka, are you seriously making the bride angry on her wedding day?" Suki asked.
"She's not a bride, she's just Toph," Sokka shrugged.
Katara took her by the hands. "You look beautiful," she said sincerely. "You're so grown up."
"I can't believe I beat you to the altar, sugar queen," Toph snorted. "When are you ever going to rope Aang into marriage"
"We're waiting until things are a little more convenient," Katara said stiffly.
Suki nudged her. "But the second things are convenient…wedding and a baby, am I right?" she teased.
"No one said anything about babies," Katara protested.
"No one wants to hear anything about babies either," Sokka said. "Do I want to think about my little sister and one of my best friends procreating? No. No, I do not."
Toph grinned as she took another large bite of cake and listened to the siblings argue while Suki vainly attempted to keep peace. It's just like old times, she thought.
But then her new gold wedding band twisted around her finger, and her heart thudded against her chest.
This wedding will never end, Zuko thought glumly. He spun his gold wedding band around his finger and glared darkly at the full ballroom.
"For a groom, you don't look very happy."
He jumped. "Ty Lee," he said, startled. "I didn't know you were here."
The pretty gymnast smiled at him. "I've know you since we were kids, Zuko," she said. "I wouldn't miss your wedding for anything."
"Yeah, well," he mumbled awkwardly.
"Your wife's really cute," Ty Lee offered.
Zuko looked across the ballroom. Toph was easy to spot, in her embroidered cream satin gown and the pearls and lotus blossoms tucked in her shining black hair. She was surrounded by her old friends, and he could tell even from that distance that she was laughing. "Yeah, I guess," he said.
"Are you still angry about Mai?" she asked softly, taking the seat next to him.
He turned away. "Of course I'm still angry," he said. "I don't know why she would just leave me like that."
"She went home," Ty Lee said. "She won't talk to me either."
"Does she know about all this?" Zuko asked, gesturing broadly at the ballroom full of wedding guests.
"I told her," Ty Lee said. She shifted uncomfortably. "She just shrugged and said she hoped you were happy."
Zuko slammed his fist down on the table. "Why does she have be like that?" he said.
"Don't be mad," she said, placing her hand on his arm. "She's…she's going through a lot. Ever since…"
Her voice trailed off. Zuko sighed. "I know," he said. "I think about it too."
Ty Lee squeezed his arm. "You should be happy," she said. "It looks like they found a nice girl for you."
"I know," he said again, shaking her hand away. "I'll make the best of it."
I have to, he thought unhappily.
"It's such a nice wedding," Iroh beamed. "And to think my nephew is married to the blind earthbending girl! I always liked her."
"You know our Toph?" Lao asked, slightly confused.
"I met her during the summer of Sozin's Comet," Iroh explained. "She had run away from her friends. I found her to be a precocious, intelligent child. It's nice to see her as a lovely young lady."
"Do you have any other children, Lady Bei Fong?" Ursa asked.
Poppy looked down at her plate. "No," she said softly. "I had several miscarriages before Toph's birth. And I nearly lost her as well. The doctor said she was a miracle, but that I shouldn't try to have another."
Ursa reached over and touched Poppy's hand. "Nothing is more painful than the loss of a child," she said quietly.
Iroh cleared his throat. "Are you staying for the coronation, Lord and Lady Bei Fong?" he asked.
"Of course," Lao said. "My daughter is going to be crowned queen of the Fire Nation. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"It's going to be strange without her at home, tearing up the garden and sneaking out to Earth Rumble," Poppy sighed. She sat up straighter. "I suppose I should warn you about that. Toph likes to sneak out."
Ursa waved her hand dismissively. "I'm sure Zuko will be able to handle it," she said. "She's still young, after all. She'll settle down."
"I'm not so sure," Lao said warily. "Especially if there's any kind of…tournament in the vicinity."
Iroh laughed. "There are worse things she could do," he said. He smiled across the ballroom at the little bride. "I know it may not look like it right now, but I know my nephew. This girl will make him a happy man. And I will be a happy uncle when the babies come!"
"Iroh!" Ursa scolded, laughing. "There's time enough for babies. They've only been married a few hours."
"Well, I want grandchildren," Iroh shrugged. "That's not so much to ask, is it?"
"Give them time," Ursa sighed.
"All right, all right," Iroh caved. "But when they've been married six months…then I will start pestering them."
Toph plunked down in a chair and propped her feet up. "These shoes are killing me," she complained.
"You've been wearing shoes the whole time?" Sokka said. "Wow. I'm impressed."
She flexed the stiffly embroidered shoes with their hard new soles. "You'd better be," she snorted. "I'm wearing a shoes, jewelry, and a dress. It's been a rough day."
"Plus the whole marrying Zuko thing," Katara added.
"Yeah, there's that," she sighed. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "How long are you guys staying here?"
Katara put her arm around her shoulders. "We can't stay for very long," she said.
"You'll at least stay until the coronation?" Toph asked.
"Oh, we'll have to stay for that," Sokka grinned. "And then we'll watch the Fire Nation fall apart with you as their Fire Lady."
She shook her fist in the direction of his voice. "If I wasn't so tired, I would slug you," she said.
He moved her fists, covering her small hand with his big one. "I'm over here," he said.
His big, callused fingers were warm and firm on hers. She pulled her hand away. "Who cares?" she said. "Where'd Aang go?"
"I think he's having an existential meltdown," Katara said. "He keeps saying that if he had known it was you, he would have refused to do the ceremony."
"I wish he had," Toph sighed.
Katara squeezed her shoulders in a sideways hug. "It'll be all right," she reassured her. "Zuko will make a good husband. You'll see."
Toph wriggled out of Katara's grasp. "I never asked for a husband," she said. "Much less for him."
She slunk into her chair, scowling. Katara, not to be deterred, twined her fingers through the loose strands of hair that had worked themselves free from her elaborate wedding-day hairstyle. Usually she bristled under Katara's maternal instincts, but she just slunk further and said nothing.
The ballroom had filtered down to just a handful of guests. The candles had nearly all burned out, the remainders of the wicks flickering weakly in puddles of wax. The servants busied themselves with clearing the tables.
Zuko slumped in his chair. If I have to talk to another one of these guests, it's not going to end well, he thought.
Someone touched his shoulder. He leaped out of his chair. "What?" he sputtered.
"I think you're tired, nephew," Iroh said. "You ought to go to bed."
"Sure, fine," Zuko grumbled, straightening his robes as he stood up.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Iroh asked.
Zuko frowned. "What?"
Iroh pointed across the room. "Your wife," he said gleefully.
"Oh," Zuko said. "Yeah."
Iroh elbowed him playfully in the ribs. "You'd better take her up to your room," he said. "Get going! I want some little ones around here."
"Uncle!" Zuko hissed, scandalized. He could feel his ears turning red. "I don't really want to talk about it."
"Fine, fine," Iroh said, giving him a push. "I promised your mother I wouldn't nag too much. But really, Zuko, you ought to get started."
Zuko stomped across the ballroom, his ears still blazing, and stopped in front of Toph. "Come on," he said sharply, holding out his hands.
She glanced up at the sound of his voice. "What?" she said sleepily.
"You look tired," he said.
"Yeah, no kidding," she yawned. "The others went to bed an hour ago."
He took her by the hands and helped her up. "Let's go," he said, his voice gentling just a little.
Toph tucked her arm through his and he led her through the ballroom. The handful of remaining guests stood in respect as they exited. He glanced over at his uncle; Iroh flashed him a wide grin and a thumbs up.
"What's wrong?" Toph asked.
"Nothing. Nothing at all. Why do you ask?" he mumbled.
"Your heartbeat just starting beating faster, like you're embarrassed or something."
"I'm not embarrassed," he barked.
The wide double doors closed ponderously behind them. Toph pulled her hand away from his arm and let out a loud groan. "Hold on a second," she said, lifting up the hem of her dress. "I have got to get these shoes off."
She fumbled with the laces tied tightly around her slender ankles. "You wore shoes?" he said, surprised.
"Yeah, I know, I've been over it," she snapped, pulling uselessly at the tight ribbons.
"Are you bleeding?" he asked.
"Probably," she grunted as she sat down on the floor and continued to pull at her shoes. The backs of the pretty embroidered slippers were dark brown with dried blood. "My feet are callused, my heels, not so much."
He leaned over and picked her up, fumbling with the massive cloud of her satin gown. "This is more efficient," he said.
She wrapped her arms around his neck as he carried her down the halls. "I agree," she said. "Does this come along with the marriage contract? You have to carry me everywhere?"
"I hope not," he said, bouncing her as he tried to adjust her weight.
"It's like old times," she said, leaning her head in the crook of his neck. "Remember? When you burned the skin off my feet and I couldn't walk for two weeks?"
"I remember," he said. "But it was easier back then. You were smaller and didn't wear ballgowns."
"Hey," she protested, thumping him on the clavicle. "Are you saying I'm fat?"
"No, I'm saying you're not twelve anymore," Zuko said. He leveled his shoulder against the door to his bedroom, pushed until it swung open, and carried Toph to the bed, where he unceremoniously tossed her.
"Warn a girl next time," she screeched, scrambling to hold onto to something.
"Sorry," he grinned. He sat down next to her, pushed her dress towards her knees, and tugged on the laces of her slippers. "What kind of knots did your maid use on these? I might have to cut these off."
He finally loosened the ties on her left shoe and pulled it away. She sighed in relief, flexing her feet. "You have no idea how good that feels," she said.
"I can imagine," he said. He pulled off the other shoe and tossed them both on the floor. "Do you want me to get something for your heels? It looks like you rubbed all the skin off."
"Nah, I'll be fine," she yawned. "I just want to get this dress off and go to sleep."
His ears started turning red again. "Sure," he said. "I'm just going to go change."
He retreated into his closet and fumbled with the clasps on his heavy ceremonial robes. You can do this, he thought. He pulled off his wedding clothes and draped them carefully over an ornately carved chest. It's not that bad. And you'd better do it, because everyone's going to ask you about it in the morning.
Zuko stripped down to his under clothes, squared his shoulders, and marched into the bedroom. Toph sat in the middle of his bed, fiddling with her hair. Her satin gown piled on the floor; with all of its layers, it looked like a smashed cake. All she wore was a very short white silk dress. "Can you help me with this?" she asked, exasperated.
He sat down behind her and pulled the hairpins out of her hair one by one. She huddled on the bed, her arms wrapped around her knees. "That hurts," she grumbled.
"Sorry," he apologized, piling the pins into a heap on the bedside table.
Her hair tumbled slowly down her back, spiraling into long silky tendrils over his hands. "Zuko?" she ventured.
He plucked the dead lotus flowers from her hair. "What?" he asked.
She rested her chin on her knees. The straps of her nightgown slipped down her shoulders. "Do we have to do anything?" she asked in a half whisper.
He untwined the strings of pearls from her dark hair. "No," he said. "We don't. Not if you don't want to."
She sighed. "I kind of forgot about this part," she said, her voice sounding soft and far away. "I didn't…I didn't think about it. At all. I mean, I was so distracted with everything else that I forgot about-"
"Don't worry about it," he said gently. He smoothed her unbound hair over one shoulder. "We've got time."
"They're going to ask about it, you know," she said into her knees.
"Yeah," he said.
"So what are we going to tell them?"
He stood up and reached into the drawer of his bedside table. "Scoot over," he said.
She obeyed, frowning. He picked up a small dagger, held it over the bed, and dug the tip into his finger. Blood dripped onto the clean white bedsheets.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"They're going to check," he said quietly.
"They're going to look for blood on our bedsheets?" she said skeptically.
He frowned. "Didn't your mother warn you?" he asked.
Toph flopped back onto the pillows, avoiding the rapidly drying splotch of blood. "My parents aren't in the habit of telling me anything," she said. She bit her lip, and for a second it looked like she was going to cry. Zuko panicked.
"Don't worry about it," he said. "If your mom won't tell you anything, maybe you can talk to mine. But you don't have to think about it now. I mean, we're married. There's plenty to time to…you know." He leaned over her, smoothing her hair away from her face. "Look, you're tired. Just…go to sleep. We can figure things out in the morning." He cleared his throat. "Would you rather…sleep by yourself? I mean, I could always sleep on a couch or something if-"
She caught his hand. "You can stay," she said quietly.
Zuko blew out the lights as Toph rolled onto her side. He pulled the covers over both of them. "Good night," he offered.
"Good night," she echoed, her voice lost in the depths of her pillow.
Zuko stared up at the ceiling as his wife fell asleep beside him. He was tired, but sleep was far away.
For all of you expecting a salacious lemon...I'm sorry you're disappointed. :P
And before I say anything else...thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all of you who are showing this story some love. Your alerts, favorites, and most of all your reviews really mean a lot, and really motivate me to write more. So thank you!
I'm off to be a super-awesome-middle-school-summer-camp-counselor for the week, but I'll return with an update ASAP!
And don't be shy- tell me what you think, and what you want to see in this story. I've actually rewritten endings on entire stories just because someone suggested a killer idea, so don't hold back!